Vista ready to ship: Microsoft sets January 30 release date

Redmond (WA) - All bets are off as to whether or not Microsoft will actually get Vista to consumers by the January 2007 projection. It looks like the software giant will meet its deadline, as the next-generation PC operating system has made its way to release to manufacturing (RTM) status, and officially slapping a January 30 release date on it.

Click through the Windows Vista RTM gallery ...

See the Tom’s Hardware preview gallery of Windows Vista ...

Vista is deemed to be the most ambitious new operating system for Microsoft in at least a decade. The re-engineered interface gives users, at least with the new AeroGlass GUI, plenty of eye-candy, such as a 3D field for the desktop and live thumbnail views of applications in the taskbar.

The OS has seen numerous delays throughout its development cycle, with release plans shifting from September to the holiday season in the past twelve months alone. By April of this year, Microsoft had pushed back the general consumer version of the software to January 2007. The business edition went to RTM status in October and is slated for release on November 30.

Microsoft said that Vista offer the "highest reliability, usability and security" of any operating system released in the firm’s history.

In terms of reliability, Microsoft said that it "had more people test more builds than previous development cycles, and the result is that we received more feedback than ever before." The extensive testing should, if Microsoft’s work pays off, result in fewer problems when running the software : "We didn’t just fix the bugs, we took a new look at the classic places where customers have had the most pain," said Sven Hallauer, release manager and director of program management at Microsoft. "For example, we have a much more robust feedback mechanism built into Windows Vista to detect application crashes and hangs. We made a special effort to fix those issues, both through bug fixing and architectural changes in Windows Vista," he said.

Upgrading cost from a previous version of Windows will range from about $100 for the basic package to $260 for Windows Vista Ultimate. A Vista Premium upgrade, which will offer the 3D interface, will cost $160. Pricing for non-upgrade customers will be between $200 and $400.

In a move to prevent slumping Q4 2006 computer sales, Microsoft, along with partnered PC vendors, have imitated a coupon program wherein consumers who purchase a new Windows Vista-ready PC between now and the launch of Vista will receive a free upgrade to the new OS when it is released. That "free" upgrade, however, is typically tied to a $10 shipping fee and specific Windows version. For example, an upgrade from Windows XP MCE to Vista Premium will be free, whereas an upgrade from Vista Home to Vista Premium will cost $80 ($70 plus $10 shipping).

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